The one thing we don't want you to stress about is stuff. We pride ourselves on offering walking holidays that are good value but also sustainable. You don’t need to splash out on lots of new gear when preparing for your walking holiday but there are a few key things that you need to ensure you are comfortable and safe. You can also park any stress about looking cool or having the right brands and take this opportunity to swap consumerism for pragmatism. We will give you more detailed advice in your trip notes regarding what to pack for a hiking trip, because it also depends on the climate and average conditions of where you are hiking, as well as the comfort grades of your accommodation.
We always recommend hiking boots with excellent ankle support, waterproof and with sturdy and slip-proof soles. You must always break them in, for at least two months before your trip. Don’t just borrow your mate’s (albeit tempting). This is the best investment you will make and you may well have them for years. They also become your best friend on a long walking holiday, and will carry memories of many a trail with you after that.
Whether you get lightweight or heavy leather boots depends on the terrain, and a specialist shop will advise you. On this walking holiday in the subtropical valleys of La Gomera, for example, we recommend lightweight, waterproof boots, with good ankle support. Waterproofing by the likes of Gore-Tex or Sympatex is crucial though. Here’s an excellent guide to maintaining hiking boots by waterproofing and waxing.
On the majority of our walking holidays, your main luggage is transferred from one accommodation to the next. Sometimes this is done by a local driver, but in the case of remote mountain treks such as in the Atlas Mountains, Bhutan or the Sahara, a mule, horse or donkey may be bearing the load. In general, we recommend a water resistant soft bag such as a duffel bag or backpack, up to 60L capacity and weighing no more than 20kg, or 15kg if it’s being carried by a pack animal. Leave your wheelies at home please.
A handful of our trips may have lower limits, such as on many of our Himalayan hiking tours, where the internal flight from Manthali to Lukla limits luggage to 10kg check-in bags and 5kg hand baggage. However, we always let you know in our trip notes if there are limitations of this kind.
For your daypack, make sure it is waterproof or bring a waterproof cover for it, and as heavy as you can manage on your daily walks. A daypack with pockets, especially for your water bottle is invaluable, and make sure it is a proper good hiking one, with padded adjustable straps.
Hydrating is vital on walking holidays and having a reusable bottle is a must. Choose one that is hardy, as it will get dropped for sure, and it’s ideal to have a spare one too. For more strenuous hikes, we also recommend water bladders that you can carry inside your daypack, or if there are two of you travelling together, one person could carry a hydration backpack and the other your daily backpack. If you are walking in places where drinking water is not the best quality, or where you might want to top up in mountain streams, a filtered water bottle such as the sugarcane, plant-based plastic Water to Go one is perfect for ensuring that the water is free of any toxins. A thermal water bottle cover is also handy, one that works in all weather conditions, so it keeps the water cool in summer, but stops it from freezing in winter.
There is no stigma anymore about walking poles, in fact they are the sign of a strident walker rather than a struggling one. Hiking without poles is like cycling without padded cycling shorts or a gelled saddle. They protect your crucial bits and, in so doing, power you to go further.
Again, this depends on the climate, but the big basics are as follows: a waterproof and windproof shell jacket; down jacket; couple of fleeces; breathable and moisture-wicking tops; walking trousers (ones with zip-off shorts ideally) and additional waterproof pull-on trousers, with a side zip; a padded hiking skirt is also a top option for many; and lightweight windproof gloves and hat. Never underestimate the importance of good hiking socks either, quick drying and breathable. Note that gear rarely remains waterproof for more than five years and some may deteriorate in three years or less. So try it out before you go and, if it’s not up to scratch, you can re-waterproof it with specialist sprays. We also recommend rain jackets with a good hood and protective collar.
Sun cream with Factor 50, for both your body and your lips, quality UV sunglasses (with polarising lenses to combat mountain glare if you are going for one of our mountain walking holidays), and a sun hat of course. One tip is to have a sunglasses case with a carabiner clip so that you can attach it easily to the outside of your daypack.
First aid kit
From rehydration to repellents, plasters to painkillers, scissors and tweezers, you need all the basics to keep you safe, tick-free and sick-free. Stick a whistle in there too, in case of emergencies. See our list of essential first aid items for hiking that will comfortably fit in a day-pack.
As well as your vital charger, and adapter to suit the country where you are travelling, we recommend bringing a power bank for charging your phone. You may also want to keep your camera charged if carrying a separate one to your phone, so don’t forget that charger either.
Those little things that you might not have thought of packing, but which our regulars never forget include: earplugs for sleeping in places you are not used to; a flannel to put in your daypack to stick in a mountain spring and cool off with; blister plasters; a drybag to put inside your day bag to keep precious things dry; binoculars for wildlife spots; a head torch; more socks than you think you need; a neck warmer or tube; a water spray bottle for cooling down and a fold up mat for sitting down are both bliss. And slippers or sandals for evenings. And, on a lot of our holidays, (maybe not the Himalayas) you’ll never regret packing swimming gear.